Hi all, this month I’m venturing outside the bookish world and talking about Once Upon a Time. I absolutely *adored* this show and after 7 glorious seasons we saw the last episode this year. This show weaves fairy tales and literary characters into a larger plot that spans across both our world and a realm where fairy tales exist.
Some Background Information
Creators: Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz
Original Network: ABC
Fairy tales featured: Snow White, Rumplestiltskin, Beauty and the Beast, Little Red Riding Hood along with a host of other literary characters
Fairy tale tropes featured: True love’s kiss, magical items and more
Once Upon a Time
Once upon a time there was a princess named Snow White and a prince known as Charming. They had been separated, had fought to find each other and were finally getting married. On their wedding day an uninvited guest made a dramatic entrance. The Evil Queen. Determined to keep the couple apart and steal their happy ending, the Queen cast a curse bringing the fairy tale characters from The Enchanted Forest to the Land Without Magic. Our world. With no memories of their past, they were trapped with no chance of living happily ever after.
I love OUAT. I really do. I can’t help but gush over it because it’s so creative, so much fun and it’s absolutely brimming with fairy tale characters, enchanted objects and magical worlds. The story starts with Henry Mills, 10 years old, taking a bus across the country to find one Emma Swan. He wants to convince her that
- She’s his mother
- Fairy tales are real and she’s the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming
- Everyone is cursed and she’s the only person who can break the curse
Meanwhile, in The Enchanted Forest we are treated to flashbacks where we see fairy tales play out, most often with a twist. What’s particularly exciting is because it is an ABC show we get the Disney version of fairy tales. We get Elsa and Ana, we get Aladdin and Jasmine, we get Merida, we get Mulan! It’s so much fun to see different characters interact and stories cross paths. How do Snow White and Little Red Riding hood know each other? Does the Evil Queen get a love story? Which of your favourite characters is gay?
I’ll admit, I love it to death but the show does get a convoluted at times. With each season, the plot gets more complicated, the world gets bigger and more fairy tale characters are introduced. There’s a whole season where the characters are trapped in Neverland which I didn’t love but you need to just kinda go with it. (Also while doing research for this blog post, I’ve found out that Marylin Manson plays Peter Pan’s shadow in Season 3. How mad is that?)
- Diverse casting: while the main cast is white, characters traditionally coded as white are not always cast as white. There’s some queer representation too, with an explicit and well written gay couple in the final season!
- Women fighting the good fight: Snow White is as much as a fighter as her husband. Although it’s not madly subversive (check: wronged and evil women as witches trope) you definitely get as many heroic female characters as you do male.
- The costumes are gorgeous. Okay, sometimes they take the puffy sleeves too seriously but there is so much detail and so much thought put into them.
Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood. Look at the detail on their cloaks!
- Graphics: there’s a lot of magic, there be dragons and castles. Except it’s all bad CGI. The castles do not look like castles and it’s distracting.
- The accents: there’s no consistency between American/English/Aussie and it drives me a little bit mad.
- Season 7: this was essentially a soft reboot of the show. It has a stripped down cast and the fact that Emma Swan is missing is glaringly obvious.
The Evil Queen/Regina: Definitely the most interesting character. You see her become evil, her constant struggle between wanting to be good versus being evil to get her happy ending. She has a huge and well deserved redemption arc.
Rumplestiltskin/Mr.Gold: Oh my gosh, Robert Carlyle as Rumpelstiltskin is EVERYTHING, his intonation, his laugh, his dancer-like movement. In their mythology Rumple is also known as The Dark One and he has magical powers through The Dark One Dagger. He likes to make deals but reminds everyone that magic always comes with a price (dearie). He is the consistent antagonist and his performance is fantastic.
Emma Swan: Cynical, a loner, wearer of fantastic leather jackets. The world has not Emma well so she puts up walls around herself and you just root for her to soften, to become a hero and to belong.
Henry Mills: He is the truest believer, full of positivity and someone who sees the good in everyone, even the Evil Queen.
Enchanted Hearts: Heart wrenching galore. Magical characters can literally pull someone’s heart out of their chest. They can lock the heart away. They can control the owner. And, if they crush it, they can kill them.
True Love’s Kiss: often the way to break a curse is through true love’s kiss and OUAT explores various forms of true love.
The Dark One Dagger: Whoever possesses this controls The Dark One and it’s the only weapon that can kill him. Magic always comes with a price and there’s a down side to killing The Dark One. It’s twisted and it’s brilliant and the dagger itself is gorgeous.
Magic Beans: Open portals between realms (and become less and less rare as the show goes on…)
Once Upon a Time: The OG fairy tale book that features all the tales from The Enchanted Forest and leads Henry to believing in fairy tales.
Happily Ever After?
Well, I can’t give away the ending of a 7-season show, but there are plenty of fairy tale endings, sad endings and less than perfect happy endings. Fun fact: the actors who play Snow White and Prince Charming, Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas respectively, met and fell in love on the show and are now happily married with two children. I’d say that’s the best Happily Ever After.